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2016-05-05

Mother’s Day & how we got here

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

(Editor’s note: When Courier Sales Director Dee Russ asked me to do an article on the history of Mother’s Day to be included in this special section, I was delighted to do so. In its current evolution, Mother’s Day, as every good mountaineer should know, originated in my home state of West Virginia.)
Although she never married or had children, schoolteacher Anna Jarvis is widely recognized as being the “Mother” of Mother’s Day in United States.
She was inspired to celebrate the occasion by her own mother, Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis. A lady ahead of her time, Jarvis the Elder was an activist and social worker. Not only had she nursed wounded soldiers from both sides of the American Civil War, but she had also created “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to address public health issues.
Throughout Anna’s childhood, her mother had drilled into her daughter “someday, someone must honor all mothers – living and dead – and pay tribute to the contributions made by them.” When her mother died in 1905, Anna Jarvis was determined to fulfill those wishes.
In 1907, she distributed 500 white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, at her mother’s church, St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia – one for each mother in the congregation. On May 10, 1908, St. Andrew’s responded to Jarvis’ request for a Sunday service honoring mothers, a Sunday service which eventually morphed into the modern celebration of Mother’s Day in America.
Parenthetically, Jarvis’s request for people to observe that first Mother’s Day by wearing a single white carnation on their lapel, might have provided “an opening wedge for the floral industry.”
Today, St. Andrew’s Methodist Church is the site of the International Mother’s Day Shrine.
Later, Jarvis and her supporters petitioned politicians for an official designated holiday for Mother’s Day.
By 1911, their hard work paid off. Mother’s Day was being celebrated as a local holiday in almost every state in the Union – the first being West Virginia, of course.
On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day – a date became a part of the national culture.
The second Sunday in May is also celebrated as Mother’s Day not only in the United States, but also in other countries, including Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Belgium. Anna Jarvis lived to see Mother’s Day being celebrated in more than 40 countries.
(Sources: http://www.mothersdaycelebration.com/mothers-day-history.html, http://www.lifescript.com/well-being/articles/t/the_history_of_mothers_day.aspx, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother%27s_Day and http://womenshistory.about.com/od/mothersday/a/anna_jarvis.htm)